Thai junta disrupts Thaksin's Manchester City Bid

Ousted Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's proposed US$197 million takeover of English Premier League club Manchester City faces another obstacle after it emerged that the Premier League would implement "fit-and-proper-persons" regulations if he was convicted of fraud in Thailand, The Guardian reported yesterday. The British daily quoted a source close to Thaksin reportedly admitting that the takeover was "on the ropes".

The daily said Thaksin had been granted 60 days to present evidence to an anti-corruption committee formed by the military-backed regime that overthrew the elected Thailand government to prove that his wealth had been earned legally. The committee will then refer its findings to the courts.

According top Thaksin's lawyer, Michael Goldberg, the exiled leader will "vigorously evaluate all international options to protect his rights and interests ... The junta is committed to finding means to circumvent any rule of law to persecute Dr Thaksin, his family, his friends and his business activities," Goldberg continued. "The junta's attacks on Dr Thaksin amount to an arbitrary interference with his privacy and his family, his private property, his business interests as well as his honour and reputation."

The Premier League introduced a "fit and proper persons test" in August 2004. Chief executive Richard Scudamore said at the time: "The fit and proper persons test puts football club directors in the Premier League under a far more rigorous test than ordinary company law." The fact that Thaksin might already have completed his purchase of Manchester City would not prevent "retrospective action" by the Premier League.